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The best and worst of Silicon Valley

Fortune Global Forum 2013Fortune Global Forum 2013
Fortune’s Geoff Colvin (standing) puts the tough questions to (from left) CEOs Yuanqing Yang of Lenovo Group, Coca-Cola’s Muhtar Kent, and Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase at the most recent Fortune Global Forum, in Chengdu, China.Stefen Chow—Fortune Global Forum

Beginning this morning, in San Francisco, Fortune convenes its Global Forum, a conclave of some of the world’s most powerful CEOs. This year’s theme is “Winning in the Disruptive Century,” which explains why we are gathering on the doorstep of Silicon Valley.

The entire world wants to better understand the magic going on here, and for good reason. Billions upon billions of value have been created in the past five years alone from innovative startups like Airbnb and Uber. They join behemoths like Apple, Cisco, Facebook,, and Alphabet (you know it as Google) whose business-model disruptions past and present continue to inspire and petrify companies everywhere.

We’ll put top executives from many of these companies onstage, as well as visitors engaged in disruptive activity of their own. Some of these include the CEOs of J.P. Morgan, Lenovo, Lending Club, and Comcast. No discussion of disruption would be complete without some of the leading venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Marc Andreessen and Ron Conway will be just two of the investing bold-faced names to join our agenda.

While the world focuses on lessons to learn in Silicon Valley, I highly recommend an article in the current issue of Fortune about an anti-lesson from Techland. In “Is Silicon Valley bad for your health?”, Jeffrey O’Brien, a former Fortune writer and editor, illuminates the brutal effects of the lack of work-life balance among key workers pursuing the tech-company dream. A doctor who treats tech-company employees tells O’Brien he “commonly sees 30-year-old engineers with 50-year-old bodies, complete with potbellies, curved spines, dulled skin tones, joint issues, reduced vitality, and elevated risks of diabetes and heart disease.” This is just one nugget in a richly crafted narrative that paints a frightening picture of the well-being of the employees of many of Silicon Valley’s most important companies.

What’s going on in the lovely corridor between San Francisco and San Jose truly is changing the world, making it worthy of study and admiration. Like anywhere, though, Silicon Valley isn’t perfect. After all, stock-option riches mean nothing when you’re dead.

This article first appeared in the daily Fortune newsletter Data Sheet. Subscribe here for a daily dose of analysis from Adam Lashinsky and a curation of the day’s technology news from Heather Clancy.